It may come as something of a surprise to learn that the three previous Ice Age movies have grossed the best part of $2 billion worldwide, but it certainly explains why there's a fourth. There can't be any other excuse for its existence.
It's not that it's bad, it just has no real purpose in life apart from hoovering up more money from kids who don't know any better. If you've seen any of the previous films, you'll know that the narrative - such as it is - features a mammoth, a sabre-toothed tiger and a sloth, who make an improbable team as they travel hither and thither across a pre-human landscape, where there are endless opportunities for adventures, mishaps and valuable life lessons. This is the same.
Manny (the mammoth) has a family - wife and teenage daughter - with whom he has conventionally dull suburban issues ('she's growing up! she likes boys!'). Sid the sloth has a toothless and brainless old granny dumped on him by his awful family. And then the world divides in two, leaving the three friends, plus granny, on one side of a ravine, and the wife and daughter on the other side. Pausing merely to imitate Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans - "I will find you..." etc - the odd quartet float out to sea on a chunk of ice, facing certain death (though clearly not that certain) and assorted nautical dangers, while the women are left to plod their way across land to theoretical safety, without much of a plot to keep them going.
And then of course there's Scrat, the ubiquitous squirrel, in unending and futile pursuit of the Perfect Acorn, who seems to be more popular than the main characters. And a rather improbable love interest is included so as not to let Diego be left out. If I tell you that Shira (the she sabre tooth tiger) is voiced by Jennifer Lopez, I'm sure you'll get my drift (see what I did there?).
Given that this is a film primarily aimed at younger viewers (I assume) and that its mega franchise status makes it virtually critic-proof, I will content myself by pointing out that it is several leagues belong the quality we are used to with Pixar films. This is well animated, but with a tired and unimaginative plot, and lacking in any features that would make you recommend it. It is also probably too scary for younger audiences, though it does have a U certificate.
By Phil Raby
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